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Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier receives $500,000 signing bonus

TAMPA — Thursday was a good day for C Vinny Lecavalier and the Lightning.

The captain received a $500,000 bonus for last summer's signing of an 11-year, $85 million contract extension, and the organization got traction trying to squelch rumors of dire financial circumstances.

"Yes, Vinny was paid his signing bonus," team spokesman Bill Wickett said. "And yes, we continue to be frustrated at the reports discussing ownership's financial status. Player salaries and payroll are nothing for anyone to be concerned about. Everyone is being paid based on their contracts and the (collective bargaining agreement)."

Beyond that, the trade watch was status quo.

General manager Brian Lawton spoke for about 15 minutes to reiterate Lecavalier is not being shopped.

"He is not being traded today. He's not being traded tomorrow. He's not being traded any time soon," Lawton said.

"This should put everything to rest."

The problem with that is that the underlying issues pushing the trade speculation have not changed, and Lawton acknowledged them, though with qualifiers.

Given the economy, he said, questions about how Lecavalier's contract fits the team's financial structure are "a fair comment for people to say, but it's not true. We signed him with the intent of him being here."

Lawton said he has fielded calls about Lecavalier "literally from the day I took the position," and he regularly listens to trade proposals, though that would apply to any player.

And no one has disputed the perception the team is having internal talks on whether it is better off with Lecavalier or with assets he could bring in a trade.

Even so, Lawton called it "disheartening" the focus has been on trade rumors rather than a team on a 7-4-1 streak.

"At the end of the day, it doesn't sell as well as controversial issues," Lawton said. "We're not selling that, but I understand why other people want to push it in that direction. It's wrong. We all live in that world. We all accept it. The team is playing better. That's where the focus should be."

TENSE TIME: Lecavalier, 28, said dealing with the rumors has been difficult.

"It's definitely been a stressful few days. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't," he said. "I signed in Tampa to be here my whole career. I guess you never know in life."

DEFENSIVE SPECIALIST: Paul Ranger was sidelined for a second game because of an upper-body injury, and LW David Koci again took turns on the blue line. Koci is a natural defenseman who switched to forward when he played in the Blackhawks organization.

"He was one of our best players," coach Rick Tocchet said of Koci's effort Tuesday against the Sharks. "You talk about a guy who works hard. Nobody works harder, and he's a great kid."

Koci said he has warmed to playing wing: "You can go fast on the forecheck and just hammer guys. It's fun."

ODDS AND ENDS: RW Mark Recchi had two assists to tie Dale Hawerchuk for 17th all time with 1,409 points. … F Paul Szczechura (lower body) went on injured reserve, and Jussi Jokinen was scratched. … The acting surgeon general, Steven Galson, recognized the Lightning Foundation for its Fit Families for Life program. … Defending Daytona 500 champion Ryan Newman said, "Let's play hockey." … Pop star Kevin Rudolf will perform on the Chrysler/Jeep Plaza at the St. Pete Times Forum after Saturday's game with the Panthers.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier receives $500,000 signing bonus 01/15/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 1:58pm]

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